When I ask fellow cooks about their favorite cookbooks of the last several years, there is one name that invariably comes up: Ottolenghi. Yotam Ottolenghi's brand of Mediterranean, vegetable-forward cooking gained followers and fans at his London delis and restaurants, but it found an even wider and more avid audience through his books.
What makes Ottolenghi so special? Nearly any Ottolenghi recipe is very, very good to eat for lunch, and this recipe, for a rice and chicken salad, exemplifies that perfectly.
When I asked Ottolenghi about his favorite lunch recipes, this one came up immediately: "I always forget how much I love the three rice with chicken salad in my first book, Ottolenghi: The Cookbook, until I eat it," he told me.
This recipe also offers one of the hallmarks of a great lunch recipe: its ability to take leftovers and transform them into something new. In his notes, he mentions this: "This dish ... is also a great way to use up leftover roast chicken. If you happen to have some, skip the roasting part and go straight on to the salad bit."
But then comes the classic Ottolenghi twist. My hunch is that this is part of what makes Ottolenghi's recipes so popular: he takes a familiar format or a traditional recipe — a rice salad, in this case — and adds one fresh thing. Here, it's shiso, a delicious herb (also known as perilla, and found under that name in Latin American groceries). "We first came across shiso leaves in one of our favorite Japanese restaurants, Tosa," Ottolenghi explains. "They are from the mint family, taste mildly like cumin and cilantro, and look a little like nettles."
But if you don't have shiso, no problem. Arugula is a fine substitute, he adds.
I'm not going to lie to you: There are a lot of components to this salad, but you will end up with a lot of tasty food that's worth the effort! The fun part of this salad is the dressing; it uses roast chicken fat instead of oil and combines it with fish sauce and sesame oil for a more Asian-y flavor profile.
This salad can be made in stages: the chicken, dressing, onion, and rices can all be made a day ahead — just store each one separately. Rewarm the dressing before tossing everything together and you're good to go!
- Christine, May 2015
Roast Chicken and 3-Rice Salad
1 organic or free-range chicken, weighing about 3 1/4 pounds (or about 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken meat, and about 4 1/2 cups cooked and shredded)
4 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 heaping cup basmati rice
1/3 cup wild rice
1/3 scant cup brown rice
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
6 green onions, thinly sliced
4 mild red chiles, seeded and cut into thin strips
3 cups cilantro, chopped
4 tablespoons mint leaves, chopped
20 shiso leaves, shredded (or arugula)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the dressing:
4 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Rub the chicken with a scant 3 tablespoons of the olive oil and season liberally with salt and pepper. Place in a roasting pan and put in the oven for 10 minutes. Lower the temperature to 375°F and continue to roast for 50 to 60 minutes, basting with the juices occasionally, until the chicken is thoroughly cooked. Remove from the oven and leave to cool to room temperature. Reserve the cooking juices.
While the chicken is roasting, cook the rice. Place the basmati in a saucepan with 1 2/3 cups water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to minimum, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave, covered, for 10 minutes. Uncover and cool completely.
Place the wild and brown rices in a saucepan and pour in enough cold water to cover the rice by at least 3 times its volume. Bring to a boil and simmer gently, uncovered, for 40 to 45 minutes, until the rice is tender but still retains a little firmness. If the water runs low, top up with extra boiling water. Drain through a sieve and run under plenty of cold water to stop the cooking. Leave there to drain.
Carve the meat from the chicken or simply tear it off in largish chunks. Put it in a bowl large enough to hold the whole salad.
To make the dressing, in a separate bowl, whisk all the dressing ingredients together with the cooking juices from the chicken. Pour the dressing over the chicken and set aside.
Heat the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil in a pan, add the onion and a pinch of salt, and fry over medium heat until golden. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.
Add the 3 rices, fried onion and green onions, chiles, and chopped herbs to the chicken. Mix well, then taste and adjust the seasoning.
→ Buy the Book! Ottolenghi: The Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi
Reprinted with permission from Ottolenghi: The Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, copyright © 2013. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.
(Image credits: Kimberley Hasselbrink)